ANIMAL WATCH - In June, Detroit Lions’ running back David Montgomery and his girlfriend, Tatum Causey, moved into a home in Gross Pointe, MI--an affluent Detroit, Michigan neighborhood--and two days later their Pit Bull, Lola, escaped from the yard, ran down the driveway of the home and attacked a neighbor’s small Cockapoo as her owners were walking her past the couple’s house.
According to an August 16 report by CBS News, the attack seriously injured the older Cockapoo and both her legs were bitten, one so badly that it later had to be amputated.
Her owner, David Owen, stated that he was also bitten and sustained severe puncture wounds. His wife suffered painful leash burns on her arm attempting to disentangle the Pit Bull’s hold on their pet and save her life.
Owen, who spoke at a subsequent meeting of the City Council, on September 19, when it considered passage of a Pit Bull breed ban in Gross Pointe Shores to prevent additional Pit Bulls from being brought into the area, stated that they have filed a lawsuit seeking damages from both Causey and Montgomery.
Montgomery landed a three-year, $18-million, contract with the Lions in March after playing four NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears, according to CBS Sports News.
ATTACKING PIT BULL WAS EUTHANIZED
The couple agreed to have Lola euthanized after the attack because the severity of the injuries caused her to be classified as a “vicious animal,” a Gross Pointe official stated at the subsequent City Council meeting to consider a Pit Bull-breed ban.
Tatum Causey also faces a hearing on Oct. 4 for a misdemeanor charge under the ordinance, City Manager Steve Poloni said.
GROSS POINTE COUNCIL APPROVES PIT BULL BAN
Just before the council’s vote and after elected officials discussed the ordinance, in an unusual move, the President posed the question to Mark Owen in the audience as to how he felt about the proposed ban.
Owen responded that he supported the ban, describing the experience of the attack vividly, as follows:
“No one else in this room has been on the ground, screaming for his life. I have zero feeling now on the side of my hand. My three-legged dog tries to walk and falls on her face after three surgeries and $16,000. It's been absolute hell,” he stated.
Although there were activists who seemed not to care about damages to victims and others who called the proposal “dumb” and even “racist,” there were also professionals in the legal and medical field and workers in animal-related occupations who attended and spoke passionately on both sides of the issue.
Residents expressed the need for safety, and those in opposition read statements or talked about owner accountability and effectiveness of pre-existing laws—neither of which stop Pit Bull attacks nationwide--nor did they stop this one.
The ban passed by a 4-3 vote.
MI HUMANE DIRECTOR MOVES ANNUAL DOG EVENT FROM GROSS POINTE SHORES
The reaction of Michigan Humane Society Director Matt Pepper was a quick announcement on September 20 that the organization would not hold its “Mutt Match” event in Gross Pointe this year—an event that had taken place annually since 1898.
Pepper posted a statement which was announced by media outlets, advising:
“Michigan Humane has held its annual Mutt March, one of our largest events, at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House since 1989. Next year would have been our 35th year bringing thousands of visitors, vendors, and commerce to Grosse Pointe Shores in a celebration of the human-animal bond. The immediate impact of the decision to ban pit bulls is that this celebration in Grosse Pointe Shores is no longer on the table. We will be immediately forced to identify a more inclusive community to host our event.” (Read entire statement here.)
Pepper has been an open ally of Best Friends Animal Society. (See: Who is the Pit Bull Lobby?)
GROSS POINTE SHORES CITY COUNCIL BACKTRACKS ON PIT BULL BAN
The Grosse Pointe Shores City Council on October 11 called a special meeting and backtracked on the ban and rules it had just approved on pit bulls, Detroit News reports on October 11, 2023.
“The council during a special meeting Tuesday night approved 4-3 to remove amendments to the city’s dog ordinance pertaining to breed,” the report states.
“Grosse Pointe Shores City Council voted Tuesday night to repeal the city’s controversial pit bull ban,” News Station WXYZ.com reported on October 10, advising that “Council members repealed language specific to pit bulls in the vicious dog ordinance by a 4-3 vote — the same margin that passed the original ordinance last month.
The station said there “had been outcry since the ban was approved in September.”
One man opposing the ban stated, “Thank you for doing the right thing. And a dangerous dog does cover pit bulls too that do bad things, so you're good.” However, the station reported, “Others in the community are upset about the repeal.”
“No one has a constitutional right to own a violent dog breed, so please keep your ban. Public safety should always come first,” one woman said.
The station reported that, “Dozens of communities in Michigan have either outright banned the breed or declared ‘the dogs dangerous.’”
During the meeting, Mayor Ted Kedzierski held up a stack of emails from constituents arguing against the ban, MLive reported.
A video recording of the meeting and the vote is available on the city's website.
(See Detroit News report here.)
MATT PEPPER AND BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY
Best Friends Animal Society, one of the main supporters of Pit Bulls as pets, praised Matt Pepper in 2017 for eliminating “temperament testing: from Detroit Animal Control’s shelter protocol,” and MI Humane Society, which he heads, now enjoys its own page on the Best Friends’ website.
It is odd that an affluent area of Michigan would risk any danger of another Pit Bull attack in its community, especially when bans in other local areas have been successful. Do they work?
“PIT BULL BANS CONTROVERSIAL, BUT THEY WORK” – Here’s proof.
Pit-bull bans controversial, but they work
Andy Davis (WAUSAU) July 20, 2014
The City of Antigo has been pit-bull-free for almost 20 years.
In 1995, the city hired an attorney who suggested that the city adopt an ordinance prohibiting the oft-maligned dogs from the city, said Kaye Matucheski, city clerk-treasurer for Antigo.
The ordinance largely was a preventative measure; Antigo hadn’t had any vicious dog attacks, but pit bulls were being blamed for maulings all over the United States, so the city acted before an attack happened rather than waiting to react afterward.
The ordinance the city adopted prohibits pit bulls and mixes of the breed, as well as any other vicious or dangerous animals, from being in the city. In the almost 20 years since it was adopted, Antigo has had no attacks, no maulings, and no dogs killed by pit bulls or other dogs.
Contrast that with Wausau, where in June, a woman was attacked by a pit bull that charged from its home and killed the Chihuahua the woman was walking. That dog remains in quarantine at the Humane Society of Marathon County as a court case seeking to have it euthanized moves forward.
Meanwhile, the owner of the dog was cited June 19 for allowing a dog to run loose, keeping a vicious dog, failing to license the animal and failure to have it vaccinated for rabies, according to Wausau Police Lt. Mike Juedes.
And the woman who was attacked, Cindy Ryder, has called on the city to ban pit bulls as Antigo and other cities have.
Editorial: Pit bull ban worth considering: Our View
Municipal leaders where such bans have been adopted say the rules are simple and they work. They ensure that pit bulls are kept under control to protect the safety of residents and other animals.
Critics of the laws, though, say they punish good owners for the actions of bad owners.
The village of Stratford and the city of Greenwood both have similar bans on pit bulls and dangerous animals. Lonna Klinke, Greenwood's clerk-treasurer, said her city’s experience is much like Antigo's: no specific incidents inspired the ban, and since it was adopted, the city has had no attacks and issued no citations.
Greenwood, she said, has no pit bull problem.
How the bans work
The June attack in Wausau was the latest in a series of maulings that has seen 10 dogs declared vicious by the city over the last six months, and police are called almost every week to a report of a problem animal running loose or threatening people.
Marathon County spends about $68,000 a year sheltering stray, surrendered and impounded dogs, and last year, about half of the dogs in the Humane Society of Marathon County's shelter were pit bulls awaiting adoption or euthanasia.
In contrast, Antigo is pit-bull free, and authorities spend almost no resources chasing the problem dogs, Matucheski, the clerk-treasurer, said.
“If there is an incident where we're informed that a resident has a pit bull, they are visited by the police department and asked to remove the pit bull,” Matucheski said.
Pit bulls that are found in the city are impounded, Matucheski said, and are kept at the humane society, where they can be adopted by people who live outside city limits.
When Antigo adopted its ban, pit bulls already in the city were allowed to stay, but owners had to register them with the city and follow strict guidelines, including muzzling their animals and keeping them on short leashes when they are outdoors — a procedure similar to those in other municipalities that have adopted bans.
Bans have critics
Every time a city considers adopting a breed-specific ban that targets pit bulls and related breeds, owners rush to the defense of their dogs. The Wausau proposal is no different.
Melanie Clark of Mosinee adopted an American Staffordshire pit bull–Boston terrier mix from a rescue shelter and said bans unfairly label breeds as bad. Blame for attacks by pit bulls and other dogs should instead be placed on neglectful owners, she said.
“My pit bull is friendly and welcomes guests,” Clark said. “As I understand it, the dog (from the June incident) got loose, and in my view, the dog shouldn't have been loose. He thought he was defending his territory, and it never should have happened.”
Clark, who volunteers at the Mosinee Veterinary Clinic, said she has seen many breeds lash out.
“There are bad German shepherds, bad Labrador retrievers, and the worst bite I ever saw at the clinic was by a mean miniature Doberman,” Clark said.
According to national dog attack statistics from www.dogsbite.org, pit bulls and pit bull mixes represent about 6 percent of all dogs in the United States but are responsible for the overwhelming majority of all maulings.
Between 1982 and 2013, pit bulls were responsible for 275 deaths and 1,779 maimings, according to the organization, which tracks dog attacks. Over the same time period, Rottweilers caused 81 deaths and 294 maimings; German shepherds caused 15 deaths and 63 maimings; and Dobermans caused seven deaths and 10 maimings.
Still, when Daily Herald Media published the original story about the proposed ban, hundreds of comments from pit bull defenders overwhelmed the Daily Herald website, all echoing Clark's contention that the breed is unfairly maligned and blamed for attacks that are sensationalized by the media.
Lisa Rasmussen, chairwoman for the Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee, said the city considered a breed-specific dog ban about eight years ago, when an attack resulted in police shooting a vicious dog, but she sides with Clark and other breed defenders. She said a ban would not solve the problem and has no intention of considering Ryder's proposal.
Rasmussen said the city's current ordinance, which bans all dogs deemed “vicious” from the city, has been working effectively. The ordinance defines vicious dogs to be those that have killed another dog or attacked a human, both without provocation. If authorities deem a pet vicious, the owner has the right to appeal the claim, Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen also said that pit bulls are not the only breed of dog the city has had problems with.
“We will not solve the problem of bad ownership or breeding by banning one type of dog," Rasmussen said. "It would not solve any problems with other breeds, and it comes down to proper breeding, owner training and the environment the dog is raised in.”
Andy Davis can be reached at 715-845-0665.
About the bans
Many pit bull bans share stipulations:
- Bans on dogs known as “pit bulldogs,” including the Staffordshire bull terrier, the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier breeds, and any dog that has the appearance or characteristics of any of these breeds
- Pit bulls that were registered with the city before a ban was implemented are allowed to remain, provided the owner uses a muzzle on the pit bull and that it is kept on a leash no more than four feet long
- Owners who have been allowed to keep their pit bulls must have a minimum of $50,000 in single-incident insurance
- Owners must post Beware of Dog signs that can be easily seen by the public
- Any puppies born to a registered pit bull must be removed from the city within six weeks of their birth
THE AFTERMATH OF TAKING NO ACTION:
Wisconsin mother dies after saving son
December 17, 2021
BOWLER, Wis. (AP) — Relatives of a northeastern Wisconsin woman say she has died of injuries suffered when saving her 4-year-old son from an attack by the family’s dog.
Heather Pingel was rushed to Aspirus Wausau Hospital following the Dec. 8 attack at the family’s home in Bowler. Her sister, Shannon Pingel, says Heather suffered extensive injuries and died on Thursday.
Her son, Damion Bernarde, received about 70 stitches to his leg after he was attacked, but is back home from the hospital.
A Shawano County sheriff’s report says when Damion’s father, Shane Bernarde, returned home that afternoon, he found the family’s pit bull attacking Heather in the bathroom, Wausau Daily Herald Media reports.
After locating their son in the living room, Bernarde grabbed the dog, pulling it outside and fatally shot it. The father was bitten as well.
Shannon Pingel says her sister suffered kidney failure and both of her arms were amputated, among other health issues. She was unable to say what may have triggered the attack. But, family members theorize that because the dog was skittish when loud noises happened, the animal likely attacked after Damion fell down some stairs and started crying.
They believe Heather found the dog attacking her son and pulled it into the bathroom.
The sheriff’s report said it wasn’t the first time the dog had shown signs of aggression.
Shannon said her sister had a fondness for animals and couldn’t let the dog go.
“My sister has the biggest heart for animals and just couldn’t get rid of it ... her heart was too big and they thought they could fix him,” Shannon said.
CAN BAN PROTECT BREED FROM ABUSE?
There is also the abuse of this breed and its overwhelming (and increasing) constant breeding for “game” dogs and use in high-stakes and community dog fighting.
This issue and the positions of major “humane” organizations all over the country now need to be revisited in order to provide the answer to an obvious question: WHY NOT A BAN?
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a contributor to CityWatch.)